Toronto had its final public consultation meeting in regards to the casino this weekend, in which attendees were willing to share personal experiences with casinos and gambling to make their points. The meeting attracted approximately 300 people, who were equally divided over whether a casino is in the city’s best interest. However, pro-casino supporters agreed with their opposing counterparts that a downtown location shouldn’t be considered.
The fifth and final meeting of the public consultation process was hosted at the Toronto Reference Library on Yonge Street, and was arguably the most personal of all the meetings. Casino opponents shared their own stories with casinos to convince the OLG and city council that the risks far outweigh the benefits. One avid poker player named Tom, who refused to share his last name, says casinos only remove people who are winning money instead of gambling it all away.
“There were people all around me, not eating, not sleeping, and were never asked to leave. That’s what we’re looking at for downtown Toronto? I’m willing to drive whether it’s Woodbine or further away. The last thing we need in a thriving place is a casino and the problems it brings.”
Similar statements were made by several anti-casino advocates, yet the statements are more of a protest against the downtown location being considered rather than against the casino itself. This could provide common ground for the two sides to reach an agreement as even pro-casino supporters like Gary Reinblatt, who once worked for the OLG, agrees that if a casino comes to Toronto it must be done in a socially responsible way.
“One of the things we should absolutely avoid is allowing people to walk to the casino. That is just an invitation to increase problem gambling.”
The final meeting was also attended by several of Toronto’s city councilors who are equally divided over the casino proposal. However, the councilors will review the arguments and suggestions from the public at a special executive committee scheduled in March. The committee will then make its final recommendation to city council, which will officially vote for or against the casino – which could forever change the nature of gambling in Toronto.